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How bad grammar can ruin a brand

How bad grammar can ruin a brand
Thursday 12 September, 2013

PR practitioners and marketers are expected to be the valiant wardens of brand identity - the guardians of good grammar and the enforcers of clear and effective communication. 

So why do so many marketers allow appalling assaults on the English language to slip through the cracks?

Sloppy syntax, poor punctuation and deficient grammar are white-anting the communication materials of some of Australia's biggest and most recognisable brands.

I'm not talking about the occasional typo or casual grammatical error, either. Too often we see global brands consciously or unconsciously pushing out defective grammar to the detriment of the brand identity and message.   

It's important to make sure your nouns and verbs agree too. A company is an 'it.' This one is a simple but common error made by many brands that use words like 'their' and 'they' in reference to the company. 

And while I’m at it, there’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction, either.

I think there are a couple of explanations for this:

  • Sign-off doom. When deadlines loom the dreaded approval process can cause some marketers to compromise with clients, stakeholders and superiors. Many buckle under pressure from the powers-that-be to intentionally move ahead with a grammatically flawed media release, campaign or quote.
  • Cat got your tongue? Many marketers just aren't confident enough in their own knowledge of grammar to challenge errors and justify their reasons.
  • "But it sounds right." Sometimes accurate grammar doesn’t sound correct, and so inaccurate grammar is favoured. Consult the grammar rule book to reinforce your recommendations and educate the other parties about the potential damage of publishing errors.

What's the worst thing that can happen if poor grammar prevails?
The brand looses credibility and the target audience and the media might think the marketers are too stupid to notice. Both terrible outcomes.

Challenging the status quo and making changes may not always be ideal. But why risk causing unnecessary damage?
Failing to defend good communication causes irreversible brand damage. So, for the sake of your message, hold your ground.

Extra Sarah Shields, Access PR
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